I’ll soon be starting my 3rd year at Maggie’s Place and as the approaching anniversary comes, there’s a lot of mixed feelings that follow. I’ve had to say goodbye to a lot of my dearest friends and some of the most wonderful people that have taught me to grow in so many ways: volunteers, staff, MissionCorps and moms alike. On the other hand, there is always something new happening, things that bring revival, hope and growth, and the opportunity to meet more amazing people who will help us along this journey.
Going on three years in the homes has many challenges. On the one hand, you are full of experience and have the ability to respond more quickly to things that come up. You are more confident in your ability to manage crisis and conflict. On the other hand, you start to lose the ability to be pleasantly surprised and joyful if you let yourself. The routine begins to set in and the honeymoon feelings begin to fade. Letting yourself get busy with the hum drum of the day can get overwhelming and not taking the time to rest and pray can drain the joy from you. I know because I’m there and some days I need to take time to consider why I’m still here.
Lately I’ve been hearing and reflecting a lot about what love, or better yet, what charity is. Not an emotion. The Church tells us the following:
1822 Charity is the theological virtue by which we love God above all things for his own sake, and our neighbor as ourselves for the love of God.
1823 Jesus makes charity the new commandment. By loving his own “to the end,” he makes manifest the Father’s love which he receives. By loving one another, the disciples imitate the love of Jesus which they themselves receive. Whence Jesus says: “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you; abide in my love.” And again: “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.”
1825 Christ died out of love for us, while we were still “enemies.” The Lord asks us to love as he does, even our enemies, to make ourselves the neighbor of those farthest away, and to love children and the poor as Christ himself.
The Apostle Paul has given an incomparable depiction of charity: “charity is patient and kind, charity is not jealous or boastful; it is not arrogant or rude. Charity does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrong, but rejoices in the right. Charity bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”
1826 “If I . . . have not charity,” says the Apostle, “I am nothing.” Whatever my privilege, service, or even virtue, “if I . . . have not charity, I gain nothing.” Charity is superior to all the virtues. It is the first of the theological virtues: “So faith, hope, charity abide, these three. But the greatest of these is charity.”
These three paragraphs struck a chord with me. If I don’t often “feel” the honeymoon emotions of loving my neighbor (that is those that I encounter every day, the people I live with, the people I work with), how do I know if I still love them? What else, then, is keeping me here?
Well, the good news is that love is not a feeling but a choice and a gift from God. I have chosen and continue to choose every morning as part of my prayer to love my neighbor through God’s gift of grace. Some days are easier than others, but I made a solemn promise to Christ to offer my service here for love of Him and to consecrate my position to His service. I have to continuously choose, almost at every hour, to pray for charity and to choose it. To be patient and kind, humble and meek, joyful and forgiving, to rejoice in the good and lament in evil and not insist on my own way when it is the “I” in me, my own ego that screams for it. To bear all things, believe all things, hope all things and endure all things.
This is the choice I have made and continue to make, to sacrifice my ego for the benefit of others and for love of Christ. In return God is so good as to continue to joyfully surprise me although He has no need. He surprises me with the gift of my neighbor.
By Lety Sanchez, a MissionCorps member